I really enjoyed Women and Power by Mary Beard. It’s a short book based on two of her lectures given at the LRB lecture series in the British Museum. There are some very useful black and white images to illustrate the author’s points – including the famous Miss Triggs cartoon (check it out here if you haven’t seen it yet). Immensely readable, the book is in the kind of handy format that fits easily into your handbag when you’re on the go.
This is not a theoretical book on feminism and power, but rather a series of reflections on what the perception of women in power has been in Western culture in the past few thousand years. Beginning from Telemachus’s put-down of his mother Penelope “Mother… take up your work, the loom and the distaff… speech will be the business of men, all men, and ME most of all” to the modern political cartoons that have the unsettling tendency to feature powerful women from Angela Markel to Hilary Clinton as the decapitated Medusa. Far from being prescriptive, Mary Beard urges us all to rethink, each in our own way, the structures women have to face in order to wield power. She reminds us time and time again, that women have only had the vote for the last hundred years or so. Now is not the time to get comfortable – it is the time to truly fight to keep the advantages we have gained.
If I have any complaints about this book, it’s that it was too short.